British and Commonwealth War Cemeteries, Julie Summers

British and Commonwealth War Cemeteries, Julie Summers

This book focuses on the work of the Imperial War Graves Commission, created in 1917 to commemorate the British and Empire casualties of the First World War. The Commission now maintains over 23,000 separate burial sites, ranging from individual graves in Britain to the massive cemeteries on the Western Front.

Summers focuses on the Commission's main tasks - the creation and maintenance of specific military cemeteries and the building of memorials to the dead. The first thing that impresses is how much effort went into the initial design of the cemeteries - their layout, the gravestones, the memorials within the cemeteries and even the planting schemes. Some of the best known architects and designers of the period were involved in this work, and the result was the familiar design of the cemeteries of the Western Front, with their quiet lines of identical white gravestones, making no distinction of rank or creed. The same level of success was achieved on the memorials to the missing, most famous of which is the Menin Gate at Ypres, the site of a daily ceremony to remember the dead.

These early designers had to deal with a variety of difficult terrain, most famously at Gallipoli, but after the Second World War their successors were faced with an even more wide-ranging set of problems, with cemeteries in North Africa, Burma, Hong Kong, Thailand and India, each presenting their own set of problems. Their problems were made worse by the Cold War, with one cemetery in East Germany out of bounds in a area used by the Soviet army for target practise.

This is a useful study of the work of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (since 1960) and a reminder of the terrible human cost of the two World Wars.

A Great Change for the Great War
A Worldwide Task
Memorials to the Missing and the Second World War
Commemoration of the Dead since 1945
An Unchanging Task in a Changing World
Further Reading
Places to Visit

Author: Julie Summers
Edition: Paperback
Pages: 64
Publisher: Shire Library
Year: 2010

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